2013 NHL Lockout: No NHLPA Disclaimer, Presence of Mediator Both Positive Signs

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIJanuary 3, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Following the NHL Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League addresses the media at the Westin Times Square on December 5, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It's early on Thursday morning, and I may or may not be awake to watch the United States take on Canada in quarterfinal action in the World Junior Championships.

Before turning to NHL.com to catch the game, however, I had one pitstop to make. Taking a deep breath, I opened ESPN.com in my browser to find out if anything had finally come of the NHLPA's threat to file a disclaimer of interest.

Preparing for the worst, instead I was greeted with something odd—what appeared to be good news. At least more good than bad, and that isn't something that many expected heading into Wednesday, with the self-imposed midnight deadline to disclaim (if you will) set by the NHLPA looming like a phantom over talks.

First things first then.

The NHLPA did not file a disclaimer of interest last night (per ESPN.com), allowing their deadline to come and go while still at the negotiating table.

By all accounts—those wonderful journalists that stood outside in the cold New York Winter just to tweet updates for us—this is a positive sign. Donald Fehr was believed to be willing to take the cold plunge into disclaimer territory if discussions weren't at least mildly satisfactory, and that did not happen.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters after what can only be described as a marathon negotiating session that the word "disclaimer" wasn't used once throughout the most recent rounds of talks.

That doesn't mean we are out of the woods quite yet though, hockey fans.

Bettman was back to his same old rhetoric, also saying that "There’s been some progress, but we’re still apart on a number of issues. But as long as the process continues, I am hopeful.” (Per ESPN)

While the Commissioner may not have had any big reveals for us, one fact did emerge early Thursday morning that surprised many. It was revealed that the recent talks have been led by Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.

He led Wednesday's session that bled over into Thursday, and reportedly asked both sides to resume the negotiations by 10 a.m.

According to ESPN's Scott Burnside, two specific issues are known to be preventing the deal from getting completed. The funding of the pension fund for the players, and the final hurdle of the NHL looking to hack $10 million off the salary cap after the shortened 2011-2012 season concludes.

I would hope it wasn't player pensions that prevented a full season from taking place, and one has to believe that won't be the case.

The cap, however, could cause some issues—depending on what other concessions have been made to get to this point. However we are still several days away from the NHL's deadline to get a deal done, and with the two sides only a few million apart on a few issues, it's hard to believe a new CBA won't be delivered within the next few days

For possibly the first time in this entire process, there is reason to be realistically optimistic. Keep your fingers crossed, hockey fans. The promised land may soon be at hand.

Or at least a truncated version of an NHL season with a playoffs that runs well, well into the summer. But at this point, I'll take it.